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Nari* from North Korea: 'The God my grandmother prayed to saved me'

Nari* grew up in North Korea where food is scarce, and Christianity is illegal. Nari is the daughter of Hannah, who survived a North Korean prison camp. Hannah’s mother – Nari’s grandmother – was a Christian, and only ever prayed one prayer.

Nari came to faith through her grandmother's prayer.

"I remember that my grandmother would go into her room or the backyard where people couldn’t see," says Nari. "And she would pray every night. I always heard my grandmother calling out, ‘Lord! Lord!’"

Nari and her sister Ki* grew up in harsh circumstances. There were times when they didn’t eat for up to ten days.

Every £15 could provide a monthly winter relief pack to help a North Korean believer survive.

But when Nari was 27 and Ki was 17, they found a woman who said she could take them across the bordering river to China – to safety.

"The day my sister and I crossed the river, it was the 25 April. It was a rainy night, around midnight. The guards already had an arrangement with the woman. The guards came out and, because it was raining hard, I couldn’t even see their faces. When they signalled to the woman to cross, she placed herself in the middle between me and my sister, crossed her arms with ours and went into the Tumen River. The water was very cold and came up around my waist. There were round pebbles and sand underneath. We felt so much tension and fear as we crossed the border."


They crossed safely, but after they reached China, the woman betrayed them both. Nari and Ki later found out that they have been sold for about $1,000 each.

"We were sold just like that. She did not have any intention to help, but she wanted to make money out of us. So without giving consent or being able to resist, we were sold. And the men who bought us never let us out. We had to work and cultivate the land. We went out at around four or five in the morning and came home between 8-9pm. We did a lot of work on the farm. And we had to sleep with the men at night because we could not resist or escape anywhere. My younger sister and I, we both became pregnant within about ten days of each other."

Both Nari and Ki were badly abused by their husbands. And their dangers were not limited to home. Chinese authorities were often on the lookout for illegal North Korean refugees. One night, Nari was seized from her home, taken to prison and threatened with a forced abortion.  

Every £33 could provide access to education and vocational skills for a Christian woman living in a country we can’t name where believers face extreme persecution.

"I was so afraid. I thought that it would be hard for me and my baby to survive. At that moment, I remembered the scene of my grandmother praying. I clearly heard her voice saying, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and I recalled that her voice sounded so desperate. At that moment, I realised that my grandmother sought salvation and help from God."

And so, in the midst of her situation, Nari began to pray too. After two hours, she was separated from the other prisoners. They were taken away – probably to be transported back to North Korea. But she was freed.

"I was let out to go home. At that moment, a thought came into my mind: the God my grandmother prayed to – that God saved me. I kept that thought in my heart."


One time, Nari was able to slip out of the house to make a quick phone call and let her family know which region they were in. Their father came from North Korea, eventually tracked down his daughters and offered to help them escape.

"But we were pregnant," says Nari, "so we told our father, ‘Let us give birth first and escape afterwards.’ But after giving birth, I could not leave my child behind, and my sister couldn’t leave hers either. So she just raised her child there and I raised my child there. And there was not a single day I didn’t work, through the four seasons. But the men took all the money and didn’t give us any. 

"My husband thought that I would escape if I had money. He kept on saying, ‘Because I bought you with money and because you’re from North Korea, even if I kill you, nobody would sue me.’" 

Nari’s life was such a struggle, she felt suicidal. But she didn’t want to abandon her son. And when her mother, Hannah, moved to China, she started taking Nari to church.

"When I went to church for the first time with my mum, the hymns made my heart feel at peace. As I listened to the sermon, I realised that the invisible God could help me. And I thought that I didn’t have to end my life."

After 13 long years in China, Nari escaped to South Korea, where she is now a citizen, attends church and serves other North Korean refugees. Her favourite Bible verse is from Psalm 119.

"’Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.’ (Psalm 119:105) When I did not have much knowledge about God’s word, I did not have clear boundaries about what is right and wrong. But God’s word is the truth and it is the light for my feet that shines my path."

Nari's favourite Bible verse is from Psalm 119.


North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian – but it isn’t the only place where Christians face extreme persecution. There are secret believers in other places, such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iran, where Christians must hide their faith from dictators and extremists, and risk imprisonment or even death for following Jesus.

It can seem like our persecuted brothers and sisters are too far away, and their lives are too different from ours, for us to really help them. but that isn’t true. Here are some things you can do today that will make all the difference for our persecuted church family.

You can pray. Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, says: "Our prayers can go where we cannot. There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray."

A prayer for North Korea: Lord Jesus, thank You for the courage of our North Korean brothers and sisters. We ask for Your protection and Your provision for them, so that the church may continue to grow and shine as a light in the darkness. May You flood the nation of North Korea with Your glory, Your truth and Your mercy.

You can give. You can’t help every persecuted believer, but by giving a gift, you could keep hope alive for one brother or sister. In North Korea, your gift could mean the difference between life and death – and the long-term support of people like you is helping an entire generation of believers in North Korea to not only survive, but also continue to show the love of Jesus to those around them.

Every £15 could provide a monthly winter relief pack to help a North Korean believer survive.

Every £33 could provide access to education and vocational skills for a Christian woman living in a country we can’t name where believers face extreme persecution.


Your faithful support is enabling Open Doors workers and partners to be there for our persecuted brothers and sisters for as long as it takes, and show them that they are not forgotten or alone.

One North Korean believer told us, “The fact that you are able to support us is proof that God exists. Thanks to you, we know He has not forgotten us. He has opened the door for us to be connected to many believers abroad.” Thank you for continuing to stand with them.

*Names have been changed for security reasons

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